Whether it’s a bone-dry Chablis or a ripe tropical style from California, a glass of Chardonnay is always welcome. This popular early-budding grape is planted in just about every wine region across the Old and New Worlds with countries such as France, Australia, California, Chile, and South Africa, in particular, producing some very fine expressions of this white grape.
Winemakers often regard Chardonnay as a “blank canvas” because it’s non-aromatic so they can finesse it with techniques in the winery to make a range of styles. As with many widely-cultivated grapes, Chardonnay displays different aromas and flavours in different climates. In cool spots such as northern Burgundy, it’s crisp, dry, and acidic with green apple and citrus notes, and unoaked. Moderate regions like the southern slopes of Burgundy produce a profile with more stone fruit and buttery notes with gentle use of oak. In hot regions like California, Chardonnay has ripe, full tropical tones and vanilla from oak fermentation and/or ageing.
In spite of the creativity with this grape, Burgundy in France is widely seen as the world benchmark in Chardonnay production. This is where winemakers perfected malolactic fermentation (MLF), lees ageing, and elegant oak treatment creating terroir-expressive wines that make you savour each drop. Vintners around the world who aim to produce fine Chardonnay usually look to Burgundy for inspiration, particularly in South Africa where the Hemel-en-Aarde ward in Walker Bay produces some exceptional Burgundy-styled Chardonnays.
When made in a simple, early-drinking style, it's typically unwooded, light and refreshing. That’s the beauty of Chardonnay!
Fun fact: This versatile grape is the most planted varietal in the world and it’s one of the key grapes in Champagne production!